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Mol Microbiol. 1994 May;12(3):343-50.

Acquisition and rearrangement of sequence motifs in the evolution of bacteriophage tail fibres.

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Department of Preventive Dentistry and Oral Microbiology, University of Basel, Switzerland.


Molecular analysis reveals a surprising sharing of short gene segments among a variety of large double-stranded DNA bacteriophages of enteric bacteria. Ancestral genomes from otherwise unrelated phages, including lambda, Mu, P1, P2 and T4, must have exchanged parts of their tail-fibre genes. Individual genes appear as mosaics with parts derived from a common gene pool. Therefore, horizontal gene transfer emerges as a major factor in the evolution of a specific part of phage genomes. Current concepts of homologous recombination cannot account for the formation of such chimeric genes and the recombinational mechanisms responsible are not known. However, recombination sites for DNA invertases and recombination site-like sequences are present at the boundaries of gene segments conferring the specificity for the host receptor. This, together with the properties of the DNA inversion mechanism, suggests that these site-specific recombination enzymes could be responsible for the exchange of host-range determinants.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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